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The Story of the Adulteress.


D John VII. 53-VIII. 11.

[This section is wanting in nearly all older manuscripts, but Jerome (a.d. 346–420) says that in his time it was contained in “many Greek and Latin manuscripts,” and these must have been as good or better than the best manuscripts we now possess. But whether we regard it as part of John's narrative or not, scholars very generally accept it as a genuine piece of history.] d 53 And they went every man unto his own house [confused by the question of Nicodemus, the assembly broke up and each man went home]: 1 but Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. [Probably crossing the mountain to the house of Lazarus and sisters.] 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down [as an authoritative teacher did—Matt. v. 1], and taught them. 3 And the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, 4 they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. [The woman had probably been brought to the rulers for trial, and they had seen in her case what appeared to be a promising means of entrapping Jesus. In the presence of the woman and the form of their accusation we see their coarse brutality. The case could have been presented to Jesus without the presence of the woman, and without a detailed accusation.] 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such [It was a case under verse 22 of Deut. xxii. Stoning was the legal method of capital punishment]: what then sayest thou of her? 6 And this they said, trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. [They were placing Jesus in a dilemma. They reasoned that he 452could not set aside the law of Moses and clear the woman without so losing the confidence and favor of the people as to frustrate his claim to be Messiah. They thought he would therefore be compelled to condemn the woman. But if he ordered her to be put to death, he would be assuming authority which belonged only to the Roman rulers, and could therefore be accused and condemned as a usurper.] But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. [His act was intended to make them vehement, and to give his answer greater effect. What he wrote is unimportant and immaterial, and hence was not told.] 7 But when they continued asking him [they insisted on an answer, hoping that he would so explain away the seventh commandment as to encourage them in breaking the sixth], he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. [Under the law (Deut. xvii. 7), the witnesses were to cast the first stone. Jesus maintained and vindicated the law, but imposed a condition which they had overlooked. The one who executed the law must be free from the same crime, lest by stoning the woman he condemn himself as worthy of a like death. There is no doubt that the words of Jesus impressed upon them the truth that freedom from the outward act did not imply inward purity or sinlessness—Matt. v. 27, 28.] 8 And again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. [Thus giving them the opportunity to retire without the embarrassment of being watched.] 9 And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last [the oldest was first to be convicted of his conscience, because his experience of life's sinfulness was necessarily the fullest]: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. [I. e., in the midst of the court, where the crowd had been.] 10 And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee? [This question is asked to pave the way for the dismissal of the woman.] 11 And she said, No man, Lord. [“Lord” is ambiguous; it 453may mean “Master” or simply “sir.”] And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more. [The woman did not ask forgiveness, so no words of pardon are spoken. Compare this case with Luke xii. 14. Jesus did not come as an earthly judge; neither did he come to condemn, but to save. The narrative shows how Jesus could deal with malice and impurity in a manner so full of delicacy and dignity as to demonstrate the divine wisdom which dwelt within him.]

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